Some local college students are learning real-life job skills and receiving tuition assistance through a program called 'Education at Work'.
Education at Work is a non-profit organization that employs area college students, who are paid and receive tuition assistance. The program was launched in 2012 by former Convergys CEO, Dave Dougherty.
Locally, it provides call center and back-office support services for companies like Cincinnati Bell and Macy's.
Program officials say Macy's employs a good number of the country's 5 million customer service representatives. However, approximately one million of those jobs have gone overseas.
Education at Work is trying to reverse that trend.
"We are a U.S.-based provider of services. We are focused on bringing these jobs back to the U.S., which is another piece of our value proposition," said Tim White, Education at Work V.P. of Business Development.
Clients like Cincinnati Bell have nothing but praise for the non-profit.
"They've brought us a highly skilled workforce at reasonable rate, so we're able to do some dynamic things that we typically wouldn't want or be able to do on a larger scale," explained Cincinnati Bell Call Center V.P. Marc James.
James says he's so impressed, he has the students handling Cincinnati Bell's 'white glove' customer experience.
"We've been able to use them to trouble shoot system issues that normally you wouldn't be able to get through. You'd end up having to send a technician to the customer's home, which inconveniences the customer. Obviously, it's expensive for us," said James.
Education at Work currently employs about 200 local students, like University of Cincinnati junior Simone Ungar. Ungar says the program provides valuable experience that may be helpful after graduation.
"We not only learn how to sell to customers, but we're also dealing with some of their issues so we learn, I guess you would say, customer service, and how to work together with a lot of other associates," explained Ungar.
The students are paid about $9 dollars per hour.
Organizers say employees who earn good grades while participating in Education at Work can also receive up $6,000 per year in tuition assistance.